Michelle Newman was out to breakfast with her mother-in-law when her waiter walked over to the table looking nervous. Minutes before, after they’d ordered, Newman’s husband’s mom, Pamela, had gone to the restroom.
Their waiter approached their table after she’d excused herself and appeared to be sweating. “Ma’am,” he addressed Newman, his voice now nine octaves higher. “You’re friend, um. A woman using the restroom in the stall next to her, um…”
Before he could get the words out Newman already knew what had happened, as this had happened almost every time they had gone anywhere.
“Let me guess,” she said, covering her face with her hands. “Pam peed on the floor.”
Jeff looked both relieved he didn’t have to say it and still disturbed that it was said.
Pamela is not the first woman to defecate on the floor of a public restroom due to misleading signage. This issue is widespread throughout the US in staggering numbers. In Wisconsin, just in the month of January, 45 percent of women are relieving themselves in sinks and floors of bathrooms, according to the Bureau of Excretion Statistics (BES).
“We’ve tried to get venues to make clearer signs,” Janet Bloom, Director of BES, said in an email. “But business owners just think it’s clear enough already and then they start complaining about having to waste printer ink or buying a new sign.”
Bloom is trying to get owners and operators of such venues see that, while it might mean paying more in ink, its benefit outweighs the cost.
“We just can’t get folks to think long-term about serious consequences,” Bloom said. “We hear things like, ‘But this is America! We’re free to have our signs as they are!’”
Bloom said people call her a fascist when she and her department see it as a way in which she is trying to make their lives easier and less gross.
Michelle Newman shared that she hopes her mother-in-law’s story serves as a cautionary tale, and call to action to protect waiters like Jeff and the dignity of people like Pamela.
“We need clearer signs,” Newman told reporters after the incident. “How else will we ever know how to do anything ever at all.”
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of bad signs, the BES is available for any and all contact, but text messaging is best: 1 (900) 435-1111